A College's List of Alleged Rapists

Administrators grapple with campus version of #MeToo movement in which students are publicly naming others and accusing them of sexual assault.

January 30, 2018
 
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Last year, the rise of #MeToo spawned a crowdsourced document known as the Shitty Media Men list. This was a Google spreadsheet, shared by women working in media, in which anyone could name powerful male industry figures whose offenses ranged from alleged rape to creepy comments.

This database of sorts, which was in part compiled anonymously, had been intended for private viewing but was circulated publicly and raised questions about whether unverified accusations could unfairly ruin the reputations of the accused. Still, many cheered the list, and similar ones in other industries, for giving victims a voice for grievances that had long been ignored.

College campuses are now grappling with similar scenarios, with the movement emboldening student activists to speak out and identify those they believe have committed sexual assault and harassment -- even if it’s unverified. Relying on these informal channels, rather than reporting to campus officials, speaks to a broken system and frustrated students who do not trust administrators, survivor activists said in interviews.

At Middlebury College, the campus has been in tumult for the last few weeks, starting when one student posted on Facebook the names of more than 30 men whom she accused of rape, emotional abuse, “emotional manipulation” and more.

These were made public without the permission of those allegedly wronged and launched a campus debate about the proper way to handle these accusations -- whether students were obligated to report them and Middlebury’s handling of such cases.

Screen shot of a Facebook post by Elizabeth Dunn: “[Content warning sexual assault/abuse] Something that’s been weighing me down for a while, especially after the #metoo movement, is how incredibly visible survivors can be, and yet how invisible the ones who violated our boundaries remain. So many people at Middlebury are open about the trauma they’ve experienced here, and yet there’s still reluctance to publicly name the ones who have caused this pain. It’s profoundly fucked up to me that I can write so much about my trauma, and see that and similar narratives hyper-consumed on so many platforms, and yet in my everyday life still see people associate with those who have perpetuated this violence as if nothing has happened. So in the spirit of that, here’s a short list of men to avoid: [name blacked out] (rapist), [name blacked out] (rapist), [name blacked out] (my rapist, don’t know his last name), [name blacked out] (physically/emotionally abusive), [name blacked out] (sexual harassment, treats women but especially black women like shit), [name blacked out] (made fetishistic, racist, sexual comments about black women), [name blacked out] (sexual harassment), [name blacked out] (rapist, sexual harassment), [name blacked out] (rapist, sexual harassment), [name blacked out] (rapist, sexual harassment), [name blacked out] (rapist, physically violent), [name blacked out] (sexual harassment), [name blacked out] (rapist, sexual harassment), [name blacked out] (sexual assault), [name blacked out] (rapist, emotional abuse), [name blacked out] (rapist, sexual harassment), [name blacked out] (sexual harassment), [name blacked out] (serial rapist), [name blacked out] (rapist), [name blacked out] (emotionally manipulative), [name blacked out] (rapist, sexual harassment, sexual assault), [name blacked out] (serial rapist), [name blacked out] (rapist), [name blacked out] (rapist, sexual harassment, sexist comments), [name blacked out] (emotional abuse, sexual harassment), [name blacked out] (sexual assault), [name blacked out] (attempted rape), [name blacked out] (rapist, sexual harassment), [name blacked out] (serial rapist), [name blacked out] (emotionally manipulative, sexual abuse), [name blacked out] (sexual harassment), [name blacked out] (serial rapist) and a lot of other people that I don’t want to name to respect people’s safety. Anyways here’s to not being complicit in 2018, and feel free to DM me more names to add to this status because I could really give a fuck about protecting the privacy of abusers. Student Elizabeth Dunn, in a now deleted post from December, wrote that “so many people” at Middlebury were open about trauma.

“And yet there’s still a reluctance to publicly name the ones who have caused this pain,” Dunn wrote, continuing with the names of men she had collected from survivors and dubbing it a “List of Men to Avoid.”

Middlebury has declined to comment on Dunn and the list because of federal privacy laws.

In an email to campus after Dunn posted to Facebook, the college wrote that public allegations “should not take the place of established procedures.” The email encouraged those who felt they had been wrongly accused to contact the college’s Judicial Affairs officers.

Middlebury students must tell campus officials of any relevant information once an investigation is launched into an offense, according to the college’s rules -- or be subject to punishment. Students who learn of sexual misconduct should report it to campus officials, among them the Title IX coordinator. These employees help administer the federal anti-gender-discrimination law, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

Middlebury’s rules did apply to Dunn, who did not respond to a request for comment, but reportedly had refused to disclose information to some administrators.

Spokesman Bill Burger said in a statement,

“Middlebury is committed to reducing sexual violence on our campuses and takes all allegations regarding sexual assault extremely seriously, regardless of the source of that allegation. When we become aware of an allegation, we follow our policies closely to ensure that investigations are comprehensive and that our judicial process is thorough and fair. Through the process, we are committed to supporting survivors of sexual assault and other sexual misconduct.”

Federal laws including Title IX generally don’t compel students to report such offenses, said S. Daniel Carter, president of Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses, which consults with colleges on matters of sexual misconduct. A student who works for the university, such as a resident assistant, would be required to report.

Dunn’s list ended up being distributed widely around the college.

Editors of the campus newspaper, The Middlebury Campus, penned an opinion piece this month, writing that students were no doubt jarred to see some of the names there.

They acknowledged the criticism around not checking with survivors before publishing the list and noted that the accusations were never authenticated.

“As members of this community, our indignation is colored by the anecdotes of our friends and peers who say the college’s legal system has failed them,” they wrote.

A list with unsubstantiated claims can be damaging for its creator, said Scott Lewis, a lawyer and partner with the NCHERM Group, a risk-management firm that works with colleges. Lewis also helped found the Association of Title IX Administrators.

The list potentially could create a hostile environment for the men named in it, which is prohibited under Title IX, Lewis said. A student in theory could be disciplined for that, Lewis said, or be sued for defamation if a false accusation cropped up in a Google search for one of the men and he was prevented from receiving a scholarship or job opportunity.

Lewis took issue with the idea of publicizing names with unproven allegations against them. Lewis noted that one man was accused of being “emotionally manipulative,” but it was unclear what that truly meant. Trained investigators must look into these matters and determine what happened, he said.

If students want to help, they should take part in education around assault prevention, Lewis said.

“If you want true consequence to happen, bring it to the people who enforce the rules and investigate this -- pass that information on,” he said.

Institutions that possess the names of students who have been publicly accused of sexual assault should ask equally publicly for survivors to come forward -- and promise confidentiality, a fair disciplinary process and, to the extent possible, strong support, Carter said.

“This would evidence a meaningful effort to comply with the law, make the campus safer and do so in a way that does not chill reporting or further harm survivors,” he said.

Many people who report rape as a third party do so without asking permission of the survivor, but that’s a bad practice, said Alyssa Peterson, a state organizer with the survivor advocacy group Know Your IX.

Peterson said that doing so doesn’t allow survivors control over their own stories.

Know Your IX doesn’t take a formal position on such public lists, because often they are symptomatic of an institution that hasn’t met its commitment or where survivors have felt “left down” in some way.

“We just wish we had a process that promises enough justice that survivors would feel comfortable going to the university,” Peterson said.

Although #MeToo is expected to lead to more instances like that at Middlebury, long before the current movement, students have vented their frustrations with sexual assaults and colleges' handling of them in more underground methods.

In 2014, names of men accused of rape were scrawled onto bathroom walls and on fliers at Columbia University, prompting national headlines. At Columbia spokesman at the time declined to comment “to avoid chilling complainants from coming forward and to respect all parties involved.”

At the time, Columbia was under investigation by the Education Department for how it treated sexual assault cases.

Two historically black institutions in Atlanta, Spelman College and Morehouse College, and their sister colleges and universities, were roiled in 2016 after an anonymous Twitter user under the name @RapedatSpelman posted an account of her rape, which in turn created the hashtags #RapedatSpelman and #RapedbyMorehouse. More recently, another Twitter handle emerged, @WeKnowWhatYou (#WeKnowWhatYouDid), that directly named alleged rapists within the Atlanta University Center Consortium.

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